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young men come to the University under circumstances of absolute determination as to the choice of their particular college, and have, therefore, no cause for search or inquiry, I, on the contrary, came thither, in solitary, selfdependence, and in the loosest state of indetermination. Every single point of my future position and connection, to what college I would attach myself, and in which of the two orders, open to my admission, I would enrol myself, was left absolutely to my own election. My coming at all, in this year, arose out of an accident of conversation. In the latter half of 1803, I was living with my mother at the priory of St. J- a beautiful place, which she had in part planned, and built, but chiefly repaired out of a very ancient Gothic monastery; when my uncle, a military man, on a visit to England, after twentyfive years' absence in India, suddenly remarked, that in my case he should feel it shameful to be tied to my mother's apron-string,' for was I not eighteen years old? I answered that certainly I was: but what could I do? My guardians had the power to control my expenditure until I should be twenty-one; and they, it was certain, would never aid my purpose of going to Oxford, having quarrelled with me on that very point. My uncle, a man of restless activity, spoke to my mother immediately, I presume, for within one hour I was summoned to her presence. Among other questions, she put this to me, which is importantly connected with my future experience at Oxford, and my coming account of it: Your guardians,' she prefaced, still continue to me your school allowance of £100. To this, for the present, when your sisters cost me such heavy deductions from my own income, I cannot undertake to make any addition - that is, you are not to count upon any. But, of course, you will be free to spend your entire Oxford vacations, and as
much time besides as the rules of your college will dispense with your attendance, at my house, wherever that may be. On this understanding, are you willing to undertake an Oxford life, upon so small an allowance as £100 per annum?' My answer was by a cheerful and prompt assent. For I felt satisfied, and said as much to my mother, that, although this might sound, and might really prove, on a common system of expenditure, ludicrously below the demands of the place, yet in Oxford, no less than in other cities, it must be possible for a young man of firm mind, to live on a hundred pounds annually, if he pleased to do so; and to live respectably. I guessed even then how the matter stood; and so in my own experience I found it. If a young man were known to be of trivial pursuits, with slight habits of study, and 'strong book-mindedness,' naturally enough his college peers, who should happen to be idlers, would question his right to court solitude. They would demand a sight of his warrant of exemption from ordinary usages; and finding none, they would see a plain argument of his poverty. And, doubtless, when this happens to be the sole characteristic point about a man, and is balanced by no form of personal respectability, it does so far lead to contempt as to make a man's situation mortifying and painful; but not more so, I affirm, in Oxford than anywhere else. Mere defect of power, as such, and where circumstances force it into violent relief, cannot well be other than a degrading feature in any man's position. Now, in other cities, the man of £100 a year never can be forced into such an invidious insulation he finds many to keep him in countenance; but in Oxford he is a sort of monster he stands alone in the only class with which he can be compared. So that the pressure upon Oxford predispositions to contempt is far stronger than elsewhere; and,
consequently, there would be more allowance due, if the actual contempt were also stronger – which I deny. But, no doubt, in every climate, and under all meridians, it must be humiliating to be distinguished by pure defect. Now and for ever to be weak, is in some sense to be miserable; and simple poverty, without other qualification or adjunct, is merely defect of power. But, on the other. hand, in Oxford, at least, as much as in any other place I ever knew, talents and severe habits of study are their own justification. And upon the strongest possible warrant, viz., my own experience in a college, then recently emerging from habits of riotous dissipation, I can affirm that a man, who pleads known habits of study as his reason for secluding himself, and for declining the ordinary amusements and wine parties, will meet with neither molestation nor contempt.
For my part, though neither giving nor accepting invitations for the first two years of my residence, never but once had I reason to complain of a sneer, or indeed any allusion whatever to habits, which might be understood to express poverty. Perhaps, even then, I had no reason to complain, for my own conduct in that instance was unwise; and the allusion, though a personality, and so far ill-bred, might be meant in real kindness. The case was this I neglected my dress in one point habitually; that is, I wore clothes until they were threadbare : partly in the belief that my gown would conceal their main defects, but much more from carelessness and indisposition to spend upon a tailor, what I had destined for a bookseller. At length, an official person, of some weight in the college, sent me a message on the subject through a friend. It was couched in these terms - That, let a man possess what talents or accomplishments he might, it was not possible for him to maintain his proper station, in the public
respect, amongst so many servants and people, servile to external impressions, without some regard to the elegance of his dress.
I resolved to spend some cost But always it happened that that passion being absolutely
A reproof, so courteously prefaced, I could not take offence at; and at that time upon decorating my person. some book, or set of books endless, and inexorable as the grave stepped between me and my intentions; until one day, upon arranging my toilet hastily before dinner, I suddenly made the discovery that I had no waistcoat, [or vest, as it is now called through conceit or provincialism,] which was not torn or otherwise dilapidated; whereupon, buttoning up my coat to the throat, and drawing my gown as close about me as possible, I went into the public hall,' [so is called in Oxford the public eating-room,] with no misgiving. However, I was detected; for a grave man, with a superlatively grave countenance, who happened on that day to sit next me, but whom I did not personally know, addressing his friend sitting opposite, begged to know if he had seen the last Gazette, because he understood that it contained an order in council laying an interdict upon the future use of waistcoats. His friend replied with the same perfect gravity, that it was a great satisfaction to his mind that his Majesty's government should have issued so sensible an order; which he trusted would be soon followed up by an interdict on breeches, they being still more disagreeable to pay for. This said, without the movement on either side of a single muscle, the two gentlemen passed to other subjects; and I inferred, upon the whole, that having detected my manœuvre, they wished to put me on my guard in the only way open to them. At any rate, this was the sole personality, or equivocal allusion of any sort which ever met my ear during the years
that I asserted my right to be as poor as I chose.
And, certainly, my censors were right, whatever were the temper in which they spoke, kind or unkind; for a little extra care in the use of clothes will always, under almost any extremity of poverty, pay for so much extra cost as is essential to neatness and decorum, if not even to elegance. They were right, and I was wrong, in a point which cannot be neglected with impunity.
But to enter upon my own history, and my sketch of Oxford life. Late on a winter's night, in the latter half of December, 1803, when a snow storm, and a heavy one, was already gathering in the air, a lazy Birmingham coach, moving at four and a half miles an hour, brought me through the long northern suburb of Oxford, to a shabby coach-inn, situated in the Corn Market. Business was out of the question at that hour. But the next day I assembled all the acquaintances I had in the University, or had to my own knowledge; and to them, in council assembled, propounded my first question: What college would they, in their superior state of information, recommend to my choice? This question leads to the first great characteristic of Oxford, as distinguished from most other universities. Before me at this moment lie several newspapers, reporting, at length, the installation in office (as Chancellor) of the Duke of Wellington. The original Oxford report having occasion to mention the particular college from which the official procession moved, had said, no doubt, that the gates of University, the halls of University, &c., were at such a point of time thrown open. But most of the provincial editors, not at all comprehending that the reference was to an individual college, known by the name of University College, one of twenty-five such establishments in Oxford, had regularly corrected it into gates of the University,' &c. Here is the first